Economic laws in operation

“Economic laws are as exacting as any other laws, and if violated they enforced penalties.”
So said Mr. Meredith Whittaker at the conference between masters and men during the printers’ strike, over which he presided last January.

The forty-eight hour week proposal was, of course, tha main subject discussed. The men’s argument was that a reduction of hours must of necessity lessen unemployment, but Mr. Whittaker took quite another view. By the process of, as he termed it, “dipping into” official figures on the subject, he appeared to give incontrovertible proof that the reduction of printers’ hours in the past had hardly effected such a highly desirable result.

“We contest the assertion,” Mr. Whittaker said, “that the shortening of hours reduces the number of unemployed. You secured in 1901 a reduction of 1½ hours per week, nearly 3 percent. the average ; and you sought this largely—you pressed for it—because you said you would solve the unemployment question within your own area or your own society. You got a reduction of hours equivalent to 3 per cent. If the same amount of work had been done it would have necessitated the employment of 3 per cent. more of your members. What was the effect ? The average unemployment in the London Society of Compositors for the five years before 1901 was 2.8 per cent. You were going to wipe that out and have no unemployment in view. You got a reduction in hours, but the panacea did not cure the complaint. It was the wrong medicine. The average for unemployment for the five years after 1901 was 4.4 per cent. When you were working 54 hours your unemployment was 2.58 per cent. The hours were reduced to 52½ and your unemployment percentage leaped up to 4.4.”

The above is an extract from “The Organiser,” issued in May last. The opening statement should be borne in mind by the working class when they are extorted by their leaders to chase airy nothings in the shape of eight hours bills and other capitalist reforms as a remedy for unemployment.

Whenever a reduction of hours takes place either by or against the will of the masters, economic laws sooner or later assert themselves, and the workers are no better off than before. The shortened working time is amply compensated for by the introduction of more efficient machinery and a general all-round “hustle.” Mr. Whittaker said that unemployment is a national question. We go further and say it is international, for wherever the modern industrial system holds sway unemployment exists, and the average condition of the workers of all nations is the same, i.e., they work hard and are poor.

So we have it in plain language from a representative of the master class, that “palliatives” do not tend to abolish unemployment in the least—naturally he did not attempt to show that there could be a remedy.

We Socialists point out the fact that unemployment is inherent in capitalist society, and can only be abolished by abolishing the system of society which gives rise to it. To this end, in spite of the seeming tallness of the order, the working class must organise themselves into a political party conscious of their interest at all times. Then, and then only, will any progress be made. The nucleus of this great party, we say, is the Socialist Party of Great Britain, and if you are class-conscious, join it now.

A. J. G.

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